A double treat

February is a month of double delight for millions of followers and disciples of Raghavendra Swamy (1591-1671), one of the iconic saints of Madhwa parampare.
It was in February that Raghavendra Swamy was born. It was also in this month, today to be precise, that he was initiated into Sanyasa and given the name Raghavendra Thertha.
The birthday of Raghavendra Swamy, who is more popularly known as Rayaru, falls on February 25. Today, February 20, is the day he was initiated into sanyasas by Sudhindra Thertha (1613-1621) , the pontiff of the Sri Matha of Kumbakonam, and given the nomenclature, Raghavendra Theertha, at Tanjore.
Raghavendra Swamy, whose poorvashrama name was Venkatanatha, had come to Kumbakonam, with his wife, Saraswathi, and their young son, Lakshminarayana.
When Vijendra Theertha (1575-1614), the senior pontiff of the Sri Matha had seen Venkatanatha in the Sri Matha, he turned to Sudhindra Thertha, the junior Swamy, and asked him to hand over the reigns of the matha to Venkatanatha after his (Sudhindra Theertha) tenure.
Vijendra Theertha told Sudhindra Theertha that Venkatanatha was Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha in his previous birth. He said there could be no fitter person other than Venkatanatha to occupy the post.
Venkatanatha soon became the favourite disciple of Sudhindra Theertha. It is here that he studied Dwaita Siddantha, grammar, and literary works from Sudhindra Theertha. Very soon, Venkatanatha came to be known for his mastery over Sanskrit and his erudite scholarship.
In 1621, Sudhindra Theertha decided to relinquish the reigns of the matha to Venkatanatha and enter Brinavana at Nava Brindavana in Hampi. The then reigning monarch of Thanjavur, Raghunatha Nayaka (1600-1634), insisted that the initiation of Venkatanatha be held at Thanjavur itself.
Initially reluctant to accept the proposal of Sudhindra Theertha to take over the matha, Venkatanatha had to change his mind when Goddess Saraswathi herself appeared in his dream and asked him to take up the post of the Peetadhipathi of the Sri matha.
Even as the sanyasa ceremony was going on, news of the event reached Saraswathi, the wife of Rayaru. Unwilling to live without her husband by her side, she flung herself in a well and committed suicide.
By then, Venkatanatha had been handed over the peetha of the Sri matha and he sensed that his wife had become a ghost. His first act after becoming Raghavendra Swamy was to give moksha to Saraswathi.
Another momentous event that occurred after Rayaru was crowned as the head of the Sri Matha was his victorious march of Sanchara all over south India.
Wherever Rayaru went, he won over people by his simplicity, humaneness and devotion to God. His travels took him to many pilgrim places including Rameswaram, Madurai, Kumbakonam, Srimushnam, Pandrapur, Vellore, Srirangappatna, Udupi and even Vellore where he defeated two well-known Shaivite pandits, Veerabhadra and Bhairava Bhatta. The Vijayanagar King was so overwhelmed by that he honored Raghavendra Swamy and gifted him several villages.

The Dasa who saw Rayaru in Yoga Nidra

One of the few people who have been personally blessed and guided by Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru (1595-1671) is Prasanna Venkata Dasa (1680-1752). Born as Venkanna in Bagalkot, he was guided by Rayaru in a dream to go to Tirupathi and seek the blessings of Lord Srinivasa.
It was in Tirupathi that Srinivasa inscribed the name or Ankita Prasanna Venkata Dasa on Venkanna’s tongue.
A rathger prolific composer, Prasanna Venkata Dasa has to his credit a variety of keertanas, scores of songs based on the Bhagavath Geetha and Indian epics and ancient religious texts, suladis and ugabhoga ( short poems). He has even authored some humorous poems such as Naradaru Korvani Vesha talda karitre.
This Dasa is better known for his compositions regarding the Bhagavata and other texts on Vishnu or Hari. One of his compositions “Samastnama manigana satkarana” is startlingly similar to Sri Visnusahasranama and here he eulogises Vishnu.
This saint-composer is one of the few to have seen Rayaru in Mantralaya. This incident goes back to the time when Prasanna Venkata Dasa was coming back home-Bagalkot in north Karnataka- after visiting Tirupathi.
The Dasa came to Mantralaya and he decided to have a darshana of the saint who had set him on course of preaching the tenets of Hari. He had his early morning bath in the Tungabhadra and came to the Brindavana of Rayaru after paying his respects to Manchalamma, the presiding goddess of Manchale or Mantralaya.
It was Brahmi muhurata and in Hindu religion, prayers offered in early morning is considered to be highly auspicious. Brahma or Brahmi muhurata begins at dawn and it can be considered to be the penultimate muhuarta of night. The concept of Brahmi is not new to religion. It also exists in Ayurveda which says, “Brahmi muhurte uttishtet swastho rakshaarthamayushah.” What this means is that getting up early would give us a lot of helth benefits and long life.
Coming back to the Dasa and his sojourn to Mantralaya, Prasanna Venkata was standing in front of the Moolabrindavana when he realised that Rayaru was in Yoga Nidra. Knowing that Sri Raghvendra Guruji was in the state of Yoga nidra (yogic sleep).This is a sleep-like state during meditation. Yoga nidra, which in Westen terminology, is called lucid sleeping is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. Yoga nidra is conscious awareness of the deep sleep state and is called as prajna in Mandukya Upanishad..
Seeing Rayaru in Yoga Nidra, Prasanna Venkata Dasa instantly composed a keertana on him in Udayaraga:

“ Yelu Sri Gururaya Bellagaitindu

Dhooli Darshan Kodiri Yi Velle Shishyarige

Yellu Guru RaghavendraYellu Daya Guna Saandra

Yellu Kumuduke Chandra Sri Raghavendra ….. “

“ Ashegollagadeno Heshi Manujanu Nanu

Klesha Bhavasagaradollisutiheno

Yeshu Janmadi Yenna Gashi madidi Munna

Dsanaguve Toro Prasanna Venkata “.

Rayaru then blessed Prasanna Venkata Dasa and asked him to preach Madhwa or Dwaitha philosophy. Prasanna Venkata Dasa then continued his journey to Bagalkot, all the while preaching the glory of Hari and eulogising Rayaru.
Prasanna Venkata Dasa is also known as Kakhandki Dasa.

Rayaru and Krishna

Today is Krishnastami.
This is the day when Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu, was born Krishna. It was on the eighth day (Ashtami) of the Krishna Paksha (dark fortnight) of the month of Shravana (August–September) in the Hindu calendar that Krishna took birth in a dungeon. Hence, the day is also known as Janmashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti or Sri Jayanti.
Krishna was the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva and his date of birth, as per historians and religious scholars, is July 19, 3228 BCE and he lived until 3102 BCE. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan of Yadavas from Mathura and he played a vital role in the Mahabharata.
Raghavendra Swamy and his previous avatar of Vyasa Raja had a close bond with Krishna. Strangely, and this cannot be a mere coincidence, both have composed songs on Krishna and both the compositions are equally famous.
While Vyasa Raja composed Krishna Nee Begane Baro, Rayaru composed Indu Yenage Govinda. Both the compositions are in Kannada.
Krishna Nee Begane Baro is in Yamuna Kalyani raga and the tala is Misra Chapu (caapu).
The Kalyani is a melakarta rāga (parent musical scale) in Carnatic music. It is also an important raga in Hindustani music. Its Western equivalent is the Lydian mode. It is the 65th melakarta rāga under the Katapayadi sankhya and it is therefore also called as Mechakaḷyāṇī. The notes for Kaḷyāṇī are S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3.
Interestingly, Vyasa Theertha was not only a master of music but astronomy, philosophy and logic too. He was an expert in Katapayadi Sankhya which was extensively used by ancient Indians and religious scholars and saints to sonically encrypt mathematical formulas into their devotional hymns to Lord Krishna. These lyrics also recorded historical data in the codified form.
The Sankhya was widely used in south India and Vyasa Theetrtha, who was born in Bannur near Mysore, was an expert in it. Incidentally, the oldest available evidence of the use of Kaṭapayādi is from Grahacāraṇibandhana by Haridatta in 683 CE. It has also been used in Laghubhāskariyavivarana by Sankaranārāyana in 869 CE. Thus apart from the spiritual content, the composition was of mathematical and astronomical and astrological significance The Ka•ṭa•pa•yā•di is numerical notation to depict letters to numerals for easy remembrance of numbers as words or verses. It assigns more than one letter to one numeral and nullifies certain other letters as valueless, forming meaningful words out of numbers which can be easily remembered.
Vararuchi and Aryabhatta used this system in their works. Vararuchi used it in Chandra-vakyani and Aryabhata is known to have used a similar, more complex system to represent astronomical numbers.
Thus apart from the spiritual, the composition was of mathematical and scientific significance too. Kerala’s 14th century mathematician-astronomer Mādhava of Saṅgama employs the Kaṭapayādi system to enlist the trigonometric sines of angles (This Madhava is not to be confused with Madhwacharya of Udupi). Vyasa Raja (1460-1539) composed Krishna Nee Begane Baro in the Kalyani raga. The guru of Purandara Dasa and Haridasa-the teacher of Tansen, Vyasa Theertha was the pioneer of the Dasa Sahitya.
Today, Krishna Nee Begane Baro is a must in all dance performance and all singer composers, right from Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Belur Vaikunta Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa, Mohana Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa and others have celebrated Krishna by singing this song.
Krishna Nee Begane Baro is perhaps one of the most popular songs and it has transcended countries, people and even different forms and styles of music and dance. Vyasa Raja has written several songs on Krishna but this is his most famous.
Vyasa Theertha’s pen name or ankita nama was Sri Krishna. He was such a great devotee of Vyasa Raja that Sripadaraja of Mulabagal saw an idol of Krishna dancing when Vyasa Raja was singing. Astonished over the incident, Sripadaraja gave away the idol to Vyasaraja and that idol exists even topday in the Sosale Vyasaraja matha and it is called Gopalakrishna.
The Indu Yenage by Rayaru is in Bhairavi raga and Adi tala. By the way, Bhairavi is a janya rāga in Carnatic music having seven notes. As it has two different dhaivathams in its scale making it a Bhashanga Raga, it is not classified as a melakarta rāga (parent scale).Bhairavi is one of the ancient rāgas and some of the compositions in this raga date back to 1500 years. There are numerous compositions in this rāga and Purandara, Thygaraja and others have composed in it.
Rayaru was in Udupi when he composed this song after seeing the Krishna installed by Madhwacharya at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple. Rayaru also personally consecrated the temple of Venugopala in Manchale village and lived in the temple premises for twelve years. The idol of Venugopala sculpted by Rayaru still exists. Unfortunately, his living quarters and the well or Kalyani where he used to bathe does not exist. Rayaru has penned several compositions under the pen name of Dheera Venugopala.

The mantra of the Tunga

The Tungabhadra river today is synonymous with Mantralaya, the holy abode of Raghavendra Swamy.
The town of Mantralaya is on the banks of the Tungabhadra and on the other side of the river is Bichale, which is in Karnataka.
Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru chose the banks in Manchale village of this river to enter Brindavana in August 1671. The place where he entered Brindavana was just a few hundred metres away from Manchale village, which then came under the Adoni province ruled by Nawab Siddi Masud Khan, an Abyssinian national in the service of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur.
Even a few decades ago, the Tungabhadra was one of the cleanest rivers of India. Since the river was on the banks of many holy places, it earned a name for itself as the river which could get people rid of their sins. The fact that Rayaru had his final resting place on its banks and that he had mentioned it in his Nadi Taratamya Stotra only went on to enhance the devotion of the people and their belief in taking a dip in it.
Incidentally, the Tungabhadra has its origin in Karnataka and it flows through several holy places in the State before entering Andhra Pradesh. It ultimately joins the Krishna along the border of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The Tungabhadra has its connections with almost all the previous avatars of Rayaru. When he was Shankukarna, it was at Nava Brindavana on the banks of Tungabhadra that he was plucking flowers for Brahma. It was at this very spot-Nava Brindavana-that Shankukarna heard the melodious Veena of Goddess Saraswathi, the wife of Brahma. Enraptured by the sound of the Veena, Shankukarna forgot that it was his daily duty to provide Brahma with flowers.
When Shankukarna delayed bringing the flowers, Brahma cursed him to be born as a human being. Born as Prahalada, he conducted an yagna at Manchale village. It was Raghavendra Swamy himself, who revealed to Dewan Venkanna, that there was a homa kunda on the spot. When the area was dug up, Dewan Venkanna and others were amazed to see the ancient homa kunda.
Rayaru then told Dewan Venkanna that he had performed the homa in Treta Yuga as Prahalada here as Manchalamma, the presiding deity of Manchale village, was his family deity.
Rayaru also revealed that this was the place in Dwapara Yuga (Mahabharata period) that saw a mighty battle between Arjuna, one of the five Pandavas and King Anusalva. The Pandavas had decided to conduct Ashwamedha sacrifice. However, King Anusalva of Manchale had tied up the horse and refused to accept the supremacy of the Panamas. Both went to war but Aruba could not defeat Enslave as Anusalva’s chariot was stationed on the Humankind. On Krishna’s advice, Aruba took back his chariot and Anusalva’s chariot too moved ahead to engage the Pandava. Thus, Anusalya’s chariot moved away from the holy spot, leaving him vulnerable. Arjuna then defeated him. This was why Rayaru selected this spot to enter Brindavana.
As his previous avatar of Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1460-1539), he decided to enter Brindavana at Nava Brindavana where several Madhwa saints had already entered Samadhi.
It was in 1539, ten years after the death of Emperor Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar that Vyasa Theertha decided to leave the mortal world. The then Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Deva Raya (1529-1542) personally oversaw the construction of the Brindavana of Rayaru.
The Nava Brindavana is just a few miles away from the Vijaya Vittala temple in Hampi. The Tungabhadra cuts across Navabrindavana and Hampi which are on opposite banks. It is this temple that Vyasa Raja worshipped regularly along with Purandara Dasa. This temple also became the place where the Dasa Sahitya originated. A little away from this temple and on the banks of the Tungabhadra was the Hampi University of which Vyasa Raja was the Vice-Chancellor.
It was at the Hampi University that students were imparted knowledge in both Dasa Sahitya and Vyasa Sahitya. Purandara Dasa also taught here as did Vadiraja Theertha and the two successors of Vyasa Theertha-Rama Theertha and Srinivasa Theertha. The venerable Vyasa Raja, who was the Raj Guru of six Vijayanagar Emperors, transformed Hampi, again on the banks of the Tungabhadra, into a centre of learning and philosophy.
Several decades later and this was in 1621, Raghavendra Swamy himself supervised the construction of a Brindavana for his Ashrama Guru, Sudhindra Theertha, at Nava Brindavana. This was the last Brindavana to come up at Nava Brindavana. A miles away, Rayaru gave moksha to Kanaka Dasa, who was reborn in his next birth as a commoner.
Rayaru settled down on the banks of the Tungabhadra sometime in 1659 and this was twelve years before he entered Brindavana at Mantralaya. Rayaru stayed in the house of Appanacharya at Bichale, which again is on the banks of the Tungabhadra.
During the Ramayana and Mahabharata periods, Tungabhadra river was known as Pampa. It is formed by the confluence of the Tunga and the Bhadra rivers which flow down the eastern slope of the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Both the rivers have their origin in Chikmagalur district. They take birth at Gangamoola, in Varaha Parvatha which once formed a part of the Kuduremukh iron ore project.
More than 100 tributaries, streams, creeks and rivulets join the two rivers. The journey of the Tunga and the Bhadra is 147 km (91 miles) and 171 km (106 miles) respectively, till they join at Koodli, at an elevation of about 610 metres near Holehonnur, about 15 km from Shimoga.
The Tungabhadra then becomes a confluence of both the Dwaitha and the Adwaitha systems. It flows by Srinegri, the seat of Shankara who propounded the Adwaitha system before reachingManchale or Mantralaya and Bichale, the place where the Dwaitha system flourished.
The Tungabhadra traverses a distance of 531 km (330 miles) and joins Krishna at Gondimalla, near Alampur in Mahaboobnagar district of Telangana. Today, the Tungabhadra is celebrated as the place where Rayaru entered Brindavana. Several Haridasas have written about the Tungabhadra and Mantralaya. One such outstanding composition is Tunga Teradhi and listen to this song by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

The Mimamsa scholar

It is considered to be the oldest philosophical schools in India. Many saints, philosophers and scholars have studied it and then gone on to interpret it. The pioneer of Dwaitha system and one of India’s finest philosopher-logician, Madhwacharya (1238-1307), was an expert in it. Jayatheertha (1365-1388), another outstanding Madhwa saint-philosopher studied this system deeply. Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1460-1539) was also renown for his studies and interpretation of this school of thought.
Though Madhwa scholars and saints studied this school, they owed allegiance to another school of the same name. Both these schools are known as Mimamsa and the Madhwa school is known as Vedanta or Purva Mimamsa. But here, we are limiting ourselves to Purva Mimamsa or the philosophical tenets of Jaimini and the expertise of one of the foremost Madhwa saints-Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) in this.
Essentially a Dwaitha scholar-philosopher-theologician-logician and thinker-critic, Raghavendra Swamy excelled in shedding light on other systems of philosophy and he has done so in interpreting Purva Mimamsa in his work, Bhatta Sangraha.
The Bhatta Sangraha is exclusively devoted to the interpretation of Purva Mimamsa as elucidated first in the 3rd century BC by Jaimini, the disciple of Veda Vyasa or Narayana or Badarayana.
It should be remembered that Mimamsa first emerged on the horizons of India when the sage Jaimini wrote extensively and elaborately on it. His work on Mimamsa, called Mimamsa Sutras or Purva Mimamsa soon displaced other philosophies and dominated the thought and knowledge of ancient and early mediaeval periods in the country (This is different from the Mimamsa propagated by Badarayana which is called as Vedanta).
The Purva Mimamsa, since then, has been a subject of study, scrutiny, discussion and interpretation. Many Madhwa saints, philosophers and scholars such as Jayatheertha or Teekacharya, Vyasa Theertha or Vyasa Raja, Vijendra Theertha (1517-1614) have lavished attention on it and they have gone on to write about it. One of the best books on this subject is by Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru,
Rayaru has written a comprehensive book on the Purva Mimamsa system. Though Jayatheertha, several centuries ago, had written about Purva Mimamsa, he has been dismissive of its tenets. He takes the Mimamsa philosophers, Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara, who followed Jaimini, to task and demolishes their arguments. He trashes the Purva Mimamsa and upholds the logic of Madhwa and the Vedanta or Uttara Mimamsa first advocated by Badarayana.
Incidentally, Mimamsa is one of the nine different philosophical schools of thought in India and of them, six- Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva mimamsa and Vedanta are categorised as orthodox and three-Jain, Buddhist and Carvaka are called as heterodox. The oldest among them all is Mimamsa, which in Sanskrit means “investigation”. This is also called astika school of Hindu philosophy as it seeks to look into the nature of dharma in relation to the Vedas. Mimamsa gives both rules according to which the commandments of the Veda are to be interpreted, and a philosophical justification for Vedic ritualism, Thus Mimamsa considers the Vedas to be eternal, authorless (apaurusheyatva), and absolutely infallible.
Dharma as understood by Mimamsa can roughly be translated into English as Knowledge, virtue, morality and or duty. Mimamsa scholars averred that the ritual obligations and prerogatives detailed in these texts, if properly performed, would not only appropriate the Gods but also lead to all-round bliss, peace and tranquility.
The Mimamsa stresses on the importance of the Vedas. Both Shankara (788-820), the founder of Adwaitha, and Madhwacharya, the pioneer of Dwaitha system, lay great store on the Mimamsa and consequently the Vedas. For Madhwacharya, Vedas was “Pramanam veda evaikaha. Tatpramanyam cha sadhitam, ” meaning Vedas are the true source of knowledge. Other philosophers such as Ramanajucharya (1017-1137), Vallabhacharya (1479-1531), Nimbaraka (13th century) and Chaitanya (1486-1534) also came to be influenced by the Mimamsa school.
This we see that Mimamsa largely influenced and moulded Hindu thought and religion in the early and middle ages and it effectively combated Buddhism and in no insignificant manner contributed to its decline. The school first traces its written word to Jaimini whose sutras are dated to the third century BC and they interpret the Vedas in twelve chapters. The first chapter is of immense philosophical value as Jaimini touches upon several aspects such as tradition or smriti, injunction or vidhi, mantra or hymn and explanatory passage or arthavada. If the second chapter deals with various rites, the third talks of sruti or that which is heard, context or vakya, pratipatti-karmdni and the fourth touches upon rites, including Rajasuya sacrifice.
The other chapters deal with sacrifice, ceremonies, hymns, tantra and prasana.
The first to write a commentary on the Purva Mīmāṃsā Sutras is Śābara and his Sabara Bhashya, a fifth century text, is a classic on the subject.
However, the school gained wide recognition during the time of three philosophers-Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (He was a Brahmin from Assam and wrote the treatise on Mimamsa called Mimamsaslokavarttika) and Prabhākara who wrote Brihati and Ladhvi. Bhatta’s Slokavarttika, along with Tantravartika and Tuptika gives us complete explanation of Sahara’s Bhasya on the Jaimini’s Mimansa – Sutra. The third philosopher who lent a strong shoulder to this school was Murāri Mishra. After them came a long list of eminent philosophers, thinkers and saints who went on to popularise the school and its tenets.
One of the first Madhwa saints and philosophers in the 16th century to study Mimamsa and write a commentary is Vijendra Theertha, the paramaguru of Raghavendra Swamy. His adhikarana mala is a classic. Others like Appaya Dixit (1520-1593), Mandana Misra-the first head of the Sringeri Shankaracharya matha and one of the four main disciples of Shankara (788-820) have written on the Mimamsa. The Nyayaratnakara of Pārthasārathi Miśra is worth mentioning. Another work is Kasika of Sucarita Miśra, who is believed to have lived sometime in the 12th century. Someshvara Bhatta in his Nyayasudha (The Nectar of Logic), has touched upon several aspects of Mimamsa.
However, what sets Rayaru’s work aside is that it gives us a detailed explanation of all the mantas and even obscure and complex words and passages are explained. A complete commentary on Jaimini Sutras, the work of Rayaru is categorised into Sangathi or context, Vishaya or subject, Sanshaya or doubt, purvapaksha or view and Siddantha or thought. Rayaru then goes on to interpret Mimamsa from both Purvapaksha and Siddantha points of view. It is here that Rayaru excels all other commentators of Mimasa. He gives word by word meaning of the stotras and mantras.
All the twelve chapters of Jaimini Sutras are explained. All the 2700 Sutras are beautifully interpreted in the Sangraha.
Vadindra Theertha, the great grandson of Rayaru, has mentioned in Gurugunavasthana that a scholar from Tanjore, Neelakanta Dixit, an Adwaitha pandit, was astounded on seeing the work and honoured Rayaru and his work with a victory procession on an elephant.